In the long term, Microsoft is launching the next generation of synchronization with „Add to OneDrive„. The idea of synchronization, which is the basic element of collaboration, has its limitations, which has led to extensive reorganizations of SharePoint libraries at some Microsoft 365 customers. Although the processors of the small devices have become faster and faster, we are reaching our limits with very many files. With Windows 10, build 1709, „Files on demand“ has been introduced. This function accelerated the synchronization of large libraries considerably, because in principle only the entries of the file name had to be transferred. The actual content remains in the cloud, but is only one click away before downloading. Nevertheless, the sync engine had to do a lot, because the local database had to be synchronized with the cloud again and again. But working with Office documents, working simultaneously, is being used by more and more companies and their users. Because the list of different synchronization scenarios is getting longer and longer:
- OneDrive Personal
- OneDrive for Business
- SharePoint Document Libraries
- Local synchronization of folders/files from „Shared with me”
- Backup (KFM: desktop, documents, images)
- Synchronization of further tenants
- B2B Synchronization
- Synchronization of „Add to OneDrive“ files
This is an area that should not be underestimated, but is predominantly used by many private users. The synchronization of „Add to OneDrive“ has been around here for quite a while, but there is no SharePoint technology behind it. In most companies, and this is also my advice, the use of OneDrive Personal is prohibited and can be prevented by group policies.
OneDrive for Business
I refer to this area as an enlarged hard disk using SharePoint technology. But it depends on how administrators and CIO’s see it. There are two camps here. One is the opponents, who don’t want to see their own silos of information of the employees. Everyone should always work in a team. But since people and their way of life and work are different, the second way of giving everyone the freedom they need to fulfill their function in the company is much more common. And as we can see, the synchronization of „Add to OneDrive“ starts right there.
SharePoint Document Libraries
Here you will find different libraries, and due to lack of expertise often wrongly migrated. Wrong in the sense of: Everything that we have used in the file server for years must be stored in the same way in SharePoint. And you would not believe what has accumulated in the file servers over the years. Administrators often no longer know who and why different permissions were created in the file server. And then migrated everything into a document library in the cloud. The experts‘ advice to have the content of the file servers examined by the business departments is often ignored due to a lack of time. The migration specialists themselves now have wonderful tools at hand, but you can’t examine the content of the file servers yourself. As a result, many files that are no longer needed also end up in the cloud. The specifications of the number of documents in these SharePoint Online document libraries are not exhausted. And many unfortunately do not know the most important number of „OneDrive Synchronization„. 300000 files. The condition that everything should look like in the file server causes problems later. Due to a lack of user acceptance and training, the administrators then use Group Policy and automatically add this library to OneDrive. But this group policy also has limitations that are worth knowing. Fortunately, there are „Files on demand“ so that the capacity of the local hard drives is not exceeded. Unfortunately the synchronization on the local devices costs CPU power. The more employees work on documents, even if they are not needed by others and „have to be synchronized“. And the more files are synchronized, the more CPU power is consumed and at some point the synchronization stumbles. And this is exactly where „Add to OneDrive“ comes in.
Local synchronization of folders from „Shared with me”
This is the ability to synchronize folders and files that an internal or external user has given me as a share on my device. I don’t have to work in the browser anymore, changes of the other user are synchronized on my device. But here we have to distinguish whether it is an internal or external user.
Since „Add to OneDrive“ does not support cross-tenant synchronization, local synchronization is the only choice for external users. You can still do this, but you have to be aware that this is only valid for one device when you set it up. If you use multiple devices, you have to configure this on each device individually. This has advantages and disadvantages that you have to weigh up. So if I exchange my data with e.g. my accountant, i.e. external user, I might not want to synchronize this data on my demo device.
The advantages or disadvantages described for external users I can also apply here. But since „Add to OneDrive“ is always passed through on all devices, I have to consider if I want to do that.
If you want to switch from ‚Local synchronization of folders/files from „Shared with me“ to „Add to OneDrive“ you have to undo the existing synchronization on all devices first, otherwise errors will occur.
Backup (KFM: desktop, documents, images)
Smiled at by many, for me the backup of the most important folders, like desktop, documents and pictures of the respective device. What has always been an increased effort for companies (folder redirection, server provision) is now available to Office 365 users. Well, some of them wish to include the remaining folders like videos, music, … Let’s see what Microsoft comes up with. There are several group policies in place for switching to this backup, but the concept should not be used on a voluntary basis in organizations.
Synchronization of further tenants
Here the previously described applies. With the exception of OneDrive Personal. Because here there can only be one. Everyone can create any number of OneDrive Personal, but only one synchronization can be set up on a device. Synchronization with other tenants is also limited to 9. But remember, each Tenant and all folders and files to be synchronized require CPU power. After all, you don’t just want to synchronize, you also want to do some work.
With Cross Tenant Synchronization, or better known as B2B Synchronization, I don’t see any problems, since it is a simple data exchange between known companies. So when I exchange data with an external agency as a marketing employee, it always refers to my area. B2B synchronization is still not used very often, maybe the technical hurdles are too much for the administrators to implement, but there are considerable advantages for both sides in terms of security.
Synchronization of „Add to OneDrive“ files
And now the revolution? I am curious what Microsoft will give us for this feature. But again from the beginning:
The existing structures and the large number of files in the SharePoint libraries are putting a lot of CPU load on our small computers despite „Files on demand“. With the targeted use of „Add to OneDrive„, the employees get a configuration possibility to synchronize what is needed now and today. The employee is not interested in where the data is stored in SharePoint. Stop, slowly!
So the selection is made directly in the right SharePoint library via the web browser. Depending on the structure, the employee has to click through many folders to select a folder and with one click synchronize this folder on all his devices. The unfolding of the folders marked with a special icon can be done in the web browser, Windows Explorer, Mac File Finder or in the app of iOS or Android. Then the shortcuts are resolved and the files are deleted on all devices, but not at the source, i.e. SharePoint Online. This makes the whole concept much more flexible but the users still need to know the structure because adding can only be done in the Web browser.
From Microsoft’s point of view for the users, it saves bandwidth and CPU resources, the sync engine has no problems with all the work it has to do, there are fewer problems. However, it is not known yet if administrators will be able to control changes via group policy. I don’t believe this though, because „Add to OneDrive“ is designed for different working styles. However, this requires that employees, especially with SharePoint document libraries with many files, have knowledge about their structure. On the other hand, administrators also have the possibility to restructure libraries, create better transitions in the folder structure for long-term projects and then use „Add To OneDrive“ to circumvent the known restrictions. However, I noticed a few little things:
If you haven’t already done so, activate „Files on Demand„. Not just manually, but as group policy for all users in your organization.
Take a SharePoint document library in the Web browser that you have not synchronized on any of your devices. Select a folder and then click on „Add shortcut to ‚my files‘„. Then switch to the Windows Explorer and you will find the folder with the name and the new icon. If you have installed the OneDrive app on your phone, you can see the folder with the name there as well. The shortcut will appear on all devices and the files will be synchronized.
Rename the folder name in Windows Explorer. The renaming is also displayed on all your devices, but not in the file origin.
Also try the resolution: In Windows Explorer, right-click on the folder and then click „Remove Shortcut„. This will remove the shortcut and files on all your devices. In the cloud, however, the files are still retained.
Work flawlessly with SharePoint Online libraries
Before you use the „Add to OneDrive“ function with real SharePoint libraries, please make sure that these libraries have not already been synchronized in the old, conventional way. This has to be resolved first. In the OneDrive settings (right-click on the OneDrive icon), locate the synced library and click Stop Sync. After an additional message, remove the out-of-sync files in Windows Explorer, because they are not deleted!
If you have synchronized this SharePoint library on multiple devices, repeat the above procedure. Only when this synchronization is removed on all devices can you switch to the Web browser of your choice and perform the shortcut process described above, and all devices will sync.
What happens if one of my devices is off?
The answer is simple: First of all, nothing. Only when the device is started, the synchronization will be done automatically.
what happens if I forget to cancel the „old“ synchronization on one of my devices?
Well, the computer reports an error, because a synchronization is already taking place. But if I cancel the existing synchronization afterwards, the link will not appear in my OneDrive for Business. Not even after restarting the app or rebooting the computer. When I asked the Microsoft OneDrive product group I was told that the link will already appear, but only after several days. In general „Add to OneDrive“ is not yet available everywhere. As in many other parts, this function is rolled out in waves.
For a certain period of time administrators will be able to disable „Add to OneDrive“ for their organizations. This temporary option is available to administrators so that they can easily perform the necessary change management. Microsoft will inform you before removing this option to disable the feature. This is done via PowerShell. If you choose to opt-out, use the Set-SPOTenant command through Admin PowerShell.
The command is Set-SPOTenant -DisableAddShortcutsToOneDrive $true
If the „Add To OneDrive“ function is disabled, the command to add folders is removed; all folders already added remain on the user’s computer
The problem described on 12/16/2020 now only causes problems in Windows Explorer. It has something to do with locking of files. Before Microsoft rolls out a new algorithm next year, there is a simple workaround:
1) Go directly into OneDrive (for Business).
2) Click on My Files
3) Select the folder with the shortcut
4) In the menu you can now click on „Remove“.
1) In your smartphone, select the folder.
2) mark the 3 points
3) Click on remove
Important: It may happen that the removal in Explorer takes a while!
You have already played with the function? Great. But since yesterday the function „Remove ShortCut„, i.e. resolving a shortcut does not work anymore. But this is only temporary.
The „Add to OneDrive“ function is currently rolled out. This means that the functionality is available on the web pages, but e.g. synchronization is not yet done. According to Microsoft, this may continue for a while.
„Add to OneDrive“ brings a new way to speed up synchronization. It is no longer necessary to transfer all data of a SharePoint library. With a clever setup, even very large SharePoint libraries can be synchronized in parts to the users. The limit of 300000 files remains however. Administrators must be aware that the structure of the SharePoint Online document libraries may have to be changed or even restructured. OneDrive synchronization is not an asynchronous network drive that allows any number of files to be transferred from the cloud to individual computers. However, the principle remains that OneDrive is the foundation of collaboration. However, this also requires the administrators of the organizations to rethink.
Microsoft, Ankita Kirti Blog Post
Microsoft OneDrive product group
Microsoft: Intrazone podcast 154: Add to OneDrive
My Blog post: Add To OneDrive global aivalable
My Blog Post: Add OneDrive with issues